Saturday, March 5, 2011

Top 12 Jazz Games from Deron Williams

I still haven't reached that last stage of grief. I don't know if I ever will.

Early one morning in February I lost my Deron Williams. After the initial shock wore off, I like all other Jazz fans reached the first stage of grief: denial. "You know he wasn't going to sign with us ... He was going to leave! It's for the best! ... We weren't going anywhere this season anyway ..."  Then there was anger. Mainly this was directed at Jazz GM Kevin O'Connor and CEO Greg Miller. "Why would they do this to Deron? Why would they do this to us? They couldn't even try to work it out with Deron?" Then there was bargaining "If Derrick Favors can develop, we are going to be great. Devin Harris is a better fit with AK! We are better off than we would be with Deron. This is going to be awesome!"

Then, suddenly ... depression. The first three stages took about 2 days. I have been in the fourth for weeks. Even now I find myself drifting into the vast archive of Deron Williams highlights known as YouTube. I relive his greatest moments, his greatest ankle breakers, his greatest ugly but awesome dunks. I still can't believe it. Without question Deron Williams has defined the past decade for the Utah Jazz. He has a lot more years left in his prime. I don't know if I will ever be able to accept that the Utah Jazz could not have made it work out with Deron Williams.

Wallow with me: The John Stockton Memorial List of Deron Williams' 12 Best Games with the Utah Jazz

12. November 30, 2007 Lakers @ Jazz

After a surprise and exciting playoff run to the Western Conference Finals, Andrei Kirilenko had demanded a trade from the Utah Jazz. He felt unwanted and under utilized in Jerry Sloan's offense. Once close with AK, Deron had very publicly called him out. Carlos Boozer (surprise) went down in the first week of the season with a semi-broken leg. On the brink of trading for Pau Gasol, the Lakers came to the ESA for Derek Fisher's first game back in Utah after asking out of his contract with the Jazz. With a starting lineup that included Jarron Collins, the Jazz lacked scoring in a big way. With this in mind, Deron Williams put the ball in Andrei Kirilenko's hands as the primary play makers and made himself into a scorer. To augment AK's jaw-dropping stat line (20 pts, 11 rebs, 11 assts, 6, stls, 4 blks) Deron dropped 35 points in the face of his former mentor while holding him to 3 points on the other end in a blowout win.

11. March 14, 2008 Jazz @ Celtics

In the middle of the 2007-08 title run, the Jazz went into Boston to face a Celtic's team which many at the time felt could challenge the Chicago Bulls' record for wins in the regular season. Not to mention that Celtics had been dominant on their home floor. Going up against an up and coming Rajon Rondo who is now looked at as one of the best defensive point guards in the NBA, Deron dominanted the game in every aspect. Deron was relentless in attacking Rondo going to the line 18 times (making 17) on his way to a 32 point, 8 assist, 5 rebound game. Behind Deron the Jazz blew out the soon-to-be champs on their home court.

10. April 21, 2009 Jazz @ Lakers Game 2

The only loss to make the list. In a rematch of the 2008 playoffs the Jazz faced a Lakers team on their way to their first Gasol-era championship. In deja vu of Game 1 the Jazz were getting blown out early (a running theme against the Lakers in the playoffs).  All hope seemed lost heading into the fourth quarter. An angry Deron Williams decided to take over. He attacked the rim on the break time after time against a much slower Derek Fisher. Deron eventually brought the Jazz back to a point where they had a chance to win, but it was little too late. Still Deron ended the game with 35 points and 9 assists.

9. May 26, 2007 Spurs @ Jazz Game 3 WCF

After a game 2 loss that included a thunderous dunk on Fabricio Oberto which truly put Deron on the map as one of the best point guards in the league, Deron had his best game of the series against the eventual champion (another theme) Spurs. After returning home after the first two games in San Antonio, Deron was agressive early and often against the smaller Tony Parker pushing the Jazz ahead early in the second half in a blowout win (the only one of the series). Deron finished with 31 points, 8 assists, and 5 steals. Included in this game was Deron's infamous ankle breaker on former Jazz-man Jacque Vaughn.

8. May 11, 2008 Lakers @ Jazz Game 3
During a rare Sunday home game on Mother's Day 2008, with the stars of High School Musical looking on, Deron helped the Jazz to a late, comfortable lead on the Lakers. Late in the game Kobe took over and cut away the once comfortable Jazz lead and forced in the game into overtime. In overtime, the game was rarely in doubt as Deron took over as he often did down the stretch in close games finishing with 29 points and 14 assists.

7. May 5, 2008 Rockets @ Jazz Game 6

In a rematch of the thrilling 2007 series, the Rockets (minus Yao Ming) came into the series against the Jazz as the underdog (even after winning 22 consecutive games earlier in the season). The Jazz were in complete control of the series early on, but the Rockets continued to hang around. Early in Game 6 it looked as though they were headed for another Game 7 as Tracy McGrady was on his way to a 40 point game. However, in the second half Deron Williams brought down the hammer  by raining down a series of series clinching three pointers. He finished with 6.

6. May 13, 2007 Jazz @ Warriors Game 4

With George Lucas looking on from the Warriors' band wagon, the Jazz were up against an electric 8th seeded Warriors team that had not lost at home during the playoffs. The Jazz had gotten run out of Game 3 that included Baron Davis' dunk (offensive foul) on Andrei Kirilenko. In Game 4 the Jazz were much more focused a largely controlled the game from the outset. The Warriors became so frustrated that they began throwing dirty fouls all over the court. Deron was a basketball maestro during the game. He was in complete control not only of his team, but the game as the Jazz stabbed the cinderella Warriors in the heart.

5. April 6, 2010 Thunder @ Jazz

In what was easily the best game of the 09-10 NBA season, Deron Williams in engaged in a epic scoring duel with NBA scoring champ Kevin Durant. The Jazz were in control early behind Deron's blistering start. Durant came on late, eventually forcing overtime. Deron and Durant traded buckets throughout the game before Deron hit the eventual game winning jump shot. Game was sullied late by a controversial ending (did CJ foul? I say no). But Deron matched Durant bucket for bucket despite the fact that Durant was hitting 40 footers late.

4. May 7, 2007 Warriors @ Jazz Game 1

An often forgotten game in the shadow of the Derek Fisher game (Game 2), Deron was incredible in Game 1. With only Dee Brown to backup Deron, Deron was the victim of questionable refereeing early in the game. Despite the foul trouble (he had 5), Deron was dominant throughout the game scoring the ball. Behind Deron's 31 points and 8 assists the Jazz won a close game that set a tone for the rest of the series.

3. April 19, 2010 Jazz @ Nuggets Game 2

The Jazz were awful to close the season (as always). They began the playoffs against the Denver Nuggets who had reached the Western Conference Finals the year before and were a favorite to reach them again. The Jazz lost Game 1 pretty handedly in what seemed like a bad omen heading forward, Deron was completely unstoppable during Game 2 in Denver. This may be Deron's most dominant playoff game. He finished the game with an unbelievable 33 points and 14 assists.

2. February 4, 2008 Hornets @ Jazz

 A game that I believe encapsulates Jazz fan's love for Deron. Jazz fans have always had a touch of a little man complex. Always slighted, always up against the world. Deron Williams was the same way. He always played with a boulder on his shoulder. He always felt like he never got the credit he deserved. This is why I think he meant so much to Jazz fans. On top of the stellar play, the playoff wins, it seemed like Deron was a perfect representation of the Jazz.

No game showcased this as well as a matchup with Hornets in February 2008. In what was arguably Deron's best all-around season, he was snubbed for a place in the all-star game in favor of Brandon Roy and a Blazers team that would end up comfortably out of the playoffs. In a stroke of serendipity, Deron's chief rival Chris Paul came into town for the first game post the All-Star annoucements. Deron was angry and played with fury. He destroyed Paul, finishing with 29 points and 11 assists in an absolute evisceration of the Hornets. Included in this game was Deron's crossover of Paul finished with a thunderous dunk over Tyson Chandler.

1. May 5, 2007 Jazz @ Rockets Game 7

In one of the best games in Jazz history, the upstart Jazz went into Houston for Game 7 of the first round series against the Rockets. The Jazz had been destroyed in every previous game in Houston. A strong home court helped the Jazz force Game 7. Deron was huge early. He kept the Jazz in the lead early with some difficult and clutch shots. Late in the fourth after the Rockets had taken the lead, Deron was calm and clutch guiding the Jazz to a huge win including the dagger assists to Andrei Kirilenko for the dagger 3.

The Game 7 in Houston, although not Deron's most dominant game, was his greatest gift to Jazz fans. Coincidentally, not only was this Deron's best game with the Jazz, it was without a doubt Carlos Boozer's best game as well. Jazz fans I think are starting to appreciate just how good Boozer actually was. He finished with 35 points and 14 rebounds, dunking on Yao's head multiple times.

Obviously he had more great games than just these. These are the ones that were on the top of my head. I have a feeling that when I think about this trade in 20 years I am going to be depressed. These 12 games are going to be the 12 of the top reasons why.